Although the Drama Desk Awards include many off-Broadway shows on Monday's list of nominees, those productions almost always lose to Broadway rivals. This year, 84 of the 155 nominations (54%) for plays and musicals went to 22 Broadway shows. That is at the low end of the range since Barbara Siegel took over as chair of the nominating committee for the 2003-2004 season. Over her first six years at the helm, Broadway contenders represented between 47% and 63% of the nominees. They went on to win all but 10 of the 153 awards bestowed on plays and musicals.
When non-Broadway nominees do manage to prevail, they tend to have prestigious reputations, as was the case with last year's winner of best play: "Ruined" had already won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Among the other non-Broadway champs last year was "Road Show," which won best lyrics for Stephen Sondheim. At last year's awards, Broadway shows won 21 of the 26 prizes and accounted for a staggering 102 of the 161 nominations (63%).
Two years ago, only 84 of the 158 nominations (53%) went to Broadway productions, but 25 of the 26 eventual winners for plays and musicals came from the Great White Way. The sole exception was the award for best featured actress in a play, which went to Tony champ Linda Lavin ("Broadway Bound") for "The New Century."
Unlike the Lucille Lortel Awards, which are devoted exclusively to off-Broadway productions, the Drama Desk kudos consider all theater productions in New York. While the Lortels are decided on by a panel of 19 experts drawn from both the theatrical community and academia, the Drama Desk nominations are determined by seven scribes: Siegel (TalkinBroadway.com, Theatermania.com); Christopher Byrne (Gay City News); Patrick Christiano (Dan's Papers, Theaterlife.com); David Kaufman (freelance author); Gerard Raymond (Backstage, The Advocate); Richard Ridge (Broadway Beat TV) and Paulanne Simmons (CurtainUp.com and NYTheatre-wire.com).
Winners of the Drama Desk Awards are determined by the membership at large. Just who these folks are remains a mystery as the Drama Desk is the only media award that refuses to list its members. Winners will be announced on May 23 at LaGuardia High School.
Photo: Drama Desk logo. Credit: Drama Desk